Mona Williams: The Voice of Wal-Mart

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Mar. 29, 2010 12:00 am  

"I thought how hard could this be after coming from telecom with the technology and litigation and regulation?" Williams said.

But it turned out to be difficult as Wal-Mart was bombarded with criticisms ranging from attacks on its business practices to allegations that it forced employees to work off the clock and didn't promote women.

The negative stories first hurt Williams. "Then it makes you angry," she said. "Because you know so much of it is not true. And when you're angry you want to fight back."

But she said the company stopped fighting and started listening. "We spent a lot of time listening to customers, associates, suppliers and even our critics," Williams said. "And they all helped us become a better company."

Wal-Mart rolled out $4 generic prescription drugs in September 2006. In 2007, Wal-Mart started opening in-store health clinics.  

Wal-Mart also has promoted environmentally friendly products while building more "green" stores.

The company's initiatives quieted critics.

Several organizations have named Wal-Mart as one of the best places to work, and it has also been named one of the "Most Admired Companies" by Fortune magazine.  

"We continue to drive change at Wal-Mart," Williams said.

She said her role was not about running campaigns for the company. It's "more about being a counselor. It's being at the table and helping drive change inside the business rather than simply trying to paint a better picture outside the business," she said.

Williams said she sticks with Wal-Mart because she feels as if she is part of something that is making a difference in the world.

"We help people who live paycheck to paycheck get by and in many cases have things they wouldn't have otherwise," Williams said. "I know it sounds like a PR person talking, but it's so real to us. ... Our customers count on us to make life better, and we think about that every day. I feel like I'm a small part of that impact."



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